Month: February 2015

Do Not Disturb (My Recovery)

It’s been six months since I last wrote a post for Bottles Down. I didn’t make a conscious plan to take a break. I didn’t stop because I feared I had revealed information too personal (that ship sailed back in 2011) or because I was bothered by the attention I received. In fact, I felt the exact opposite — the feedback I got was nothing short of astounding; never in my life had I felt such a consistent wash of concern, encouragement and hope as a result of something that I wrote. And even the criticisms were valuable — it’s important for me to be reminded that I can follow my heart and take risks, and that I won’t shatter if someone disagrees with me. Despite all of those positives, however, new ideas for this column would not come. Weeks passed, I had nothing. I attributed my dry well to severe writer’s block, something I’m STILL struggling with today (if I’m honest, even writing this post is painstaking). I’d never really understood the concept of …

In an Emergency, Maybe We Don’t Want Our Privacy?

Two weeks ago on a Sunday night, riding the subway home in New York, I saw a man have a seizure on the 2 train. I was in the carriage with him. I helped, a little. Others helped even more. He had slumped sideways, shaking with massive jerks, making audible thuds as his skull smacked the seat. One of the women sitting nearest him saw the moment of our terror, even disengagement. “We need to lift him.” In a rattling train, with his limbs flailing, we moved him from a seat onto the carriage floor. Then we helped to sit and comfort him for the 25 minutes it took for paramedics to reach him. He said his name was Junior, and beyond that was completely anonymous. He had bitten his tongue. * * * Ever hear the one about the man who watched people stepping over a dead guy who just lay there on the sidewalk? Or the woman who fell down a storm grate and waited for help as walkers passed by? Urban legends …

Don’t Stand So Close to Me. Especially at the Grocery Store

I love my personal space. At the same time, I also try to remember that I’m on the planet as one person among many, many other people. I try to help where I can and leave others in peace to be themselves — to “do them,” as it were. Until they’re behind me in the grocery line. Apparently, I have some deeply held beliefs about how much space I can expect to have to for myself, and about how little is too little. If I see you in a yoga studio without your mat space clearly marked on the floor, I will show you exactly what I mean. I’m not bragging about this predisposition. I’m not excited about anything that makes me feel intolerant of other people and their pushy, all-up-on-me ways. I can concede that it’s not them, it’s me. Kinda. [pullquote]Sting and I are on the same lyrical page with at least one thing. Don’t stand so FREAKING CLOSE to me.[/pullquote] I don’t hate people, I swear. I’m not a germaphobe. I was …

30 Minutes in the Dark, with Needles

What does it take to get me to really sit still and shut up? Being immobilized by needles and electrodes in a dark room, apparently. No, this was not some wild and wretched sounding 50 Shades of Grey moment, just an attempt to alleviate a very un-sexy inflamed tendon in my hand with a 30-minute acupuncture session. Being rendered basically useless and left alone with my thoughts made me realize that apart from going to sleep at night, it’s rare that I take time to really simmer down. I think that almost everyone has this problem, but perhaps mothers are most guilty of not taking proper quiet time. Be still! We tell children to do it all the time, but most of us can’t get the hang of it. We often read to relax, or watch television to try and zone out, but we are actually filling our heads with more information; and exercise or yoga, as wonderful as they are, are all about bodies in motion. I am talking about the full-on Zen of …

Hiding In Plain Sight: Why Obscurity Matters More Than Privacy

Is it possible for anything to be private in the Social Age? The Information Age brought us 24-hour news sources, online forums, the Information Superhighway, Web 2.0 and more social media sites than we could even begin to remember. We were told we could now access more info than we would ever want or need. It was out there in pixels and bytes, ours for the searching. The start of this age is sort of a moving target, but was sparked by the Digital Revolution of the late 1950s to late 1970s. Now we’ve entered into the Social Age — and since I’m sort of making that up, I’m going to peg the start to 1997-2001, with the rise of Six Degrees and Friendster. Information is still out there, but there’s gobs of it. There’s so much of it that sometimes it’s hard to tell if what we’re reading is even true. We depend heavily on our social networks — both online and off — to help us make sense of all of that information. …

Margit’s Note: Private Eyes, They’re Watching You

Some of the best stories reveal an author’s most private moments. A love affair, a devastating ordeal, a sliver of a feeling about the world. Those things we might keep hush hush, but the author is willing to reveal — and when they do, we all nod in agreement. That’s great storytelling. Personally, when my words are cloaked (and controlled) in prose, sharing is just fine — but when it comes to social media, hell, I overthink every single vacation snap. Of course, some of us take those private moments and broadcast them, no holds barred, in seven social feeds, sharing every blink our babies made, or every crock pot concoction we’ve ever conceived. Privacy is in the eye of the beholder and, as a generation who got “social” later in life, we don’t often agree when it is ok to reveal. This week we’re wondering:  Where do we draw the line? What Jennifer Ha won’t share on Facebook. Why Susan Linney is becoming more private in recovery. Laurie White says “step back” at the grocery store. Amy Vernon blurs the image. Why Juliet Fletcher …

Margit’s Note: So How’d Those 30 Days Go?

We eliminated sugar. We gave up takeout. We even stopped wearing pants. For 30 days, six of us challenged ourselves to stop or start one thing. So what did we discover? You’ll have to read this week’s stories to find out, but there were some curious, common threads. Most of us did splendidly for the first week or so. Then something else kicked in — a bit of boredom, peer pressure, cockiness, maybe. For whatever reason, a few of us took a slight detour or backslide. Most of us got back on track, though some of us decided cookies and “sorrys” were back on the menu. No judgement. Some of us had unexpected outcomes, others stark, existential realizations. Yeah, whoa. Ultimately, the exercise reminded us that we are in control (if we want it to be), so we forgave ourselves and struck some sort of balance. It’s the best we can do. Our trials, errors and wins: Calling her mom every day, Lauren Oster learned what happens after the small talk stops. Tamar Anitai attempted to …

The End of Small Talk: I Called My Mother Every Day For 30 Days

The first few calls I made to my mother for TueNight’s 30-Day Challenge covered familiar territory: My youngest sister was visiting with her husband, so I filled Mom in on our adventures around New York City. She described the holiday meals she’d prepared back in California. We expressed reluctance to get rid of our respective Christmas trees. But after a week or so, I started to learn things about my family that I never before knew. On one occasion, for example, our conversation turned to catnapping. “Oh yeah, Grandpa loved James Herriot,” my mom told me, speaking of the publicity-shy veterinarian whose heartwarming stories of his country practice in Yorkshire sold millions of books in the ‘70s and ‘80s. “He loved James Herriot so much that when he and Grandma went to Cambridge on one of their trips, he grabbed a cat from outside their hotel and went to see him posing as a client.” [pullquote]The Challenge was undertaken with Mom’s knowledge: I didn’t want her to think I was suddenly in constant contact because, …

Ditching Sugar: Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

Oookay, so it appears I may have lied. I should’ve been specific about my no-sugar pledge. Because apparently I took advantage of a loophole that really meant “giving up cookies.” That would’ve been slightly more accurate and yet… still a lie. I defiantly and somewhat petulantly housed a chocolate chip cookie at around 9:45pm on December 31st. From that point in, I honestly did pretty well until about the second week in January. No sugar in my coffee, not even those Fage yogurts, which, as it turns out, have about a billion metric tons of sugar in them. I didn’t stop eating things like fruit, which, of course, contain natural sugars, or pasta which turns into maltose. Because life is too short and because a life spent scrutinizing labels is not a life I care to live and because that’s highly valuable time I could spend catching up on Millionaire Matchmaker. (The one with Jill Zarin’s daughter!!!) But I was very good about eliminating foods with added sugars. [pullquote]What I cut out of my diet in the sugar …

How I Survived a Month Without Takeout

During the month of January, I spent $30 on “takeout.” I don’t feel bad about that. Those were lattes and scones and slices of pumpkin bread that on snowy, sleety, generally awful days I could not resist. I also spent $1,500 on groceries. For the record, I didn’t count the convenience foods and drinks that were means to an end — another $100 or so over the course of the month that bought me a few hours refuge at a coffee shop to get through some email on a Saturday morning; or got me access to a “free” play space for my toddler; or work meetings with colleagues at cafés or restaurants. A little compare and contrast: In previous months, I’d spent approximately $800 in groceries and $1,000 in takeout. So, $1,500 vs. $1,800. THIS WAS NOT THE $1,000 WINDFALL I WAS EXPECTING. SHOUTYCAPS. [pullquote]Fridays, I have learned through this exercise, are not cooking days. Candy Crush and Seamless are what I need on Friday nights.[/pullquote] For $300 in savings, I cooked like a maniac every …

5 Things I Learned By Going Pants-Free For 30 Days

Wardrobe-wise, I was ready. My family bought me a handful of great new skirts, knowing 30 days without pants was going to be tough. I dug up a snug pencil skirt from the back of the closet. Pulled out a dress or two to dress down for everyday use. And shut the drawer on my jeans with a tiny whimper and a pathetic wave. “See ya next month, old friends.” Who knew that so trivial a resolution would take me to the heights of polished sophisticate and to the lows of mid-life neurotic with such deft ease? Who knew that an A-line skirt could make me beeline so quickly to either fabulous or fussy? Insight #1: If giving up an article of clothing can make such waves in my life, fear for me, friends, should I ever try to give up anything more serious. As I sit writing this today, cross-legged, in sweats (a position I sorely missed!), these are my top revelations from a January without jeans. The good, the bad and the superficial. …

Sorry I’m Not Sorry: Learning a New Lesson

I began my 30-day exercise to stop saying the words “sorry,” “totally” and “cool,” just by noticing how often I committed my crime. Like any habit one tries to tweak, I started by recognizing when and why I was saying these words. Quickly, I realized I actually don’t say totally or cool all that much, but, holy hell, I said “sorry” on an hourly basis — like a nervous tic. Sorry was the word to nip. “You do say it a lot,” said my Mom. Was my mother imparting some nugget of historical knowledge? “What do you mean? Like, all my life?” “Well I don’t know, no…  I’m noticing it now, too. Just stop it!” If only it were that easy. I said it bumping into people. I said it when we spontaneously asked a taxi driver to drop off a friend at a different location in Brooklyn. [pullquote]On the surface of things I get by very well — but often, I don’t meet my own expectations. So I apologize to the world.[/pullquote] “Sorry.” “Oh whatever,” …

Giving Up the Blame Game — And Finding Adventure

I gave up blaming others — or at least tried to — during the month of January. At times it was not easy, especially when we got locked out of the house. Or when the car battery died. Twice. I once blamed two people at work within a 10-minute span for screwing things up very badly. Naturally, I blame Montezuma for the stomach bug I contracted on the yoga retreat I took in Mexico in late January. But, overall, ending the blame game was deceptively easy. There were plenty of moments when I found myself searching for someone to point a finger at. Often, I took ownership of it. Other times, I simply let it go. And sometimes the outcome of screw-up/misstep/bad mistake led to something better. Case in point: We went to Kent, Connecticut for a few days over the Christmas holiday. On Christmas morning, I started making a glorious skillet of Melissa Clark’s shakshuka, a spicy Middle Eastern egg confection. Once the peppers, onions and tomatoes were all stewed together, I went into …

Fifty Shades, Passion Parties and a Road Trip to Paramus

After a routine, reportedly pain-free tooth cleaning, my husband was slipped a post-it with a date and a phone number. “If your wife would like to see a sneak peak of Fifty Shades of Grey,” she whispered, “have her call me.” The dentist’s perky, pint-sized front desk assistant, Heather — who, when she’s not charging me for left quadrant tooth scaling — runs a side business called “Heather’s Little Pleasures,” her self-branded, New Jersey edition of a Passion Party. For the uninitiated, Passion Parties are like the Avon Ladies of fuzzy handcuffs and pink dildos. The screening she was hosting was in Paramus, New Jersey, a good 25 miles from my home in Brooklyn, and she promised swag bags, hot pink wristbands, free popcorn and… “Your dental hygienist Norma will be there.” Who could pass this up? Plus, there was something strangely apropos about the most sadistic of doctors being associated with such an event. To be clear, I’m no fan of the book. In fact, when I first tried to read it, I got …

TueNight, Tinder, Dating

4 Lessons from My Month On Tinder

On New Year’s Day, after two years of being divorced from my ex-wife, I decided to rejoin the dating world. The last time I went on a date, Mark Zuckerberg was a pimply faced kid who hadn’t yet stolen Facebook. While online dating existed at the time, no one had yet sent a nude photo because the bandwidth was too slow. On New Year’s Day, I made the resolution to start dating again, so I did what any other red-blooded American does in 2015 — I joined Tinder. When I told my friends that I was joining Tinder, I received severe warnings of danger, as if I wasn’t just joining a harmless little dating site based on the “Hot or Not” concept, but joining Al Qaeda. Friends told me that I would get emotionally hurt (actually, it was my ex-wife!), that I didn’t have the temperament for cheap hookups, and that I would inevitably “fall for a ruthless Russian escort who will steal my money, my heart, and then have me killed.” Luckily, none of …

TueNight

Dating After Divorce: Two Friends Chat About Love, Part Two

Recently, friends and writers Erin Donovan, a columnist for the Bangor Daily News and Marinka of the blog MarinkaNYC.com, sat down in front of their iPhones to chat about dating after divorce. Erin is in her 30s and has three kids. She divorced after ten years with her ex-husband nearly two years ago. She began dating another single parent after a year of believing that she might become one of those people who has an unsavory amount of canaries. She had known her present boyfriend in various non-romantic contexts, which spared her the online dating route, which is what got her married the first time around, thank you very Match. For Marinka, the process was a compicated one, she had to study the overview of the Divorce process in Arizona with a professional, many times in order to feel confident that she was not making a mistake.  Marinka is in her 40s, with two kids. She started online dating soon after her separation, trying sites such as Match, JDate and Tinder. Yes, Tinder. She is …

Who’s on a First Date? 6 Ways You Can Tell

There’s a café up the block from my apartment that my husband and I frequent. Buceo 95 is a cozy, lively place with decent wine and tasty tapas. We eat there a couple of times of month, usually parking ourselves at the bar. From that perch, we have a bird’s-eye view of our fellow patrons, most of whom range in age from about 30 to 60. On almost every visit, I lean over to my husband and whisper, “See that couple? They’re on a date.” How can I tell which twosomes are new and which are more like the left-and-right mates of a pair of old shoes? Here are six signs I rely on. 1. Daters Consume More Alcohol than Food Since alcohol is the ultimate conversation lubricant, the wine is copiously flowing from the get-go on a first date. Women typically have white or sparkling; men tend to order red or beer. Even when the duo consists of two men or two women, I rarely spot hard liquor, as neither party wants to seem …

The Recently Divorced Dude — Is He Dateable?

Welcome to of our new advice column where we try to answer all of your confounding “What The…?” questions. We’ll be getting advice from experts, but we may not always have the best answer. Feel free to share your own advice in the comments below . [dropcap]Q: [/dropcap] I really like this man and would like to date him seriously. We’ve been friends for a long time — decades in fact, but he was married and therefore off-limits. Not anymore! Everyone tells me not to be his first post-divorce girlfriend because it won’t last. Myth? Truth? Signed, Rebound or Romance? [dropcap]A:[/dropcap] Upon dissolution of his relationship, the long-married man could behave in a variety of different ways. Some go completely apeshit-horndog, sliding their penis into any and all willing receptacles. After decades of mundane marital life, they can’t believe they’re suddenly in demand. They see vagina around every corner. They are the binge-eater at the buffet, gorging themselves on an abundance of boobies and beav at their collective fingertips. After all, these once longtime married guys …

Dating By the Book

From the moment we’re allowed to date (the age of which varies greatly, depending on whether you’re a precocious urbanite or a Duggar), the road to romance is full of perils and potholes. Does he like me? Does she like me? Does this dress make me look fat? Does this mascara make me look fat? Some of these perils have been solved — or forgotten — by the time we reach midlife. Most of us know we have physical imperfections and have made peace with them, learned to camouflage them, or paid hundreds of thousands to have them eliminated (or all three). We’re more comfortable with ourselves and able to put our romantic interests at ease, too. We know what kind of situation we’re looking for, and we make sure our signals remain clear. HAHAHA, right! Dating is just plain hard work no matter how young or old you are. If you don’t believe it, just take a look at the following mix of novels and memoirs about women pursuing love later in life — which, in our current culture, means all …

Margit’s Note: Swipe for a Mate

I met my husband on a website. Yes I did. There he was, “Midnight_Train00,” photographed at someone’s wedding, shielded in cool-guy sunglasses and busting a move. Initially I worried that “Midnight Train” was some sort of drug reference, completely missing the Gladys Knight, Georgia nod — where he went to school and lived for a spell. One must be prudent when selecting a mate. Now knowing the real person, that postured profile shot couldn’t be further from the man I know and love, and it’s amazing that I actually, ahem, “bookmarked” him (Nerve.com parlance). Somehow, after meeting men all the regular ways — at work, in college, while pumping away on a hip abductor — I met the love of my life online. In the beginning I’d joke that we’d met in France, by the Seine, over a glass of wine and a baguette. The idea that I shopped for him from a webpage seemed spurious. But we found each other, and it doesn’t matter how. Now, of course, online dating is the way 90% …

Barely Qualified: Notes From a First-Time Exotic Dance Judge

I never saw the Diamond G-String with my own eyes, and I’m not sure if it truly exists. As prizes go, among prizes for getting naked at least, this alleged jeweled garment has the draw and cachet of a netherworld tiara. Given every year by a club in Philadelphia — the kind where “gentlemen” appear in quotes alongside “dancers” — this win crowns one girl above the rest. Forget, for a second, any glass-beaded lingerie. Holding the title alone, she can up her earnings, command more. Bank on prime-time slots on stage, better placement in the floor rounds. Choose her as a winner, and you can change that stripper’s year. (An intervention that appeals to many of the kind of people who don’t actually frequent strip clubs.) I say all this only before you ask — so, what kind of connoisseur gets to award this prize? Who gets to determine what’s hot and coveted by strip-club goers for a whole 12 months? Well, one year, I did. * * * “What would you like, hun? …

The Ballsiest, Awkwardest and Cryingest: Our Own Sundance Awards

Park City, Utah, stands about 6,900 feet over sea level. If you are used to, say, the 39 feet Philadelphia sits above the Atlantic, that’s a hell of a long way up. You feel this most walking from the outskirts of town — where the critics and press screenings are mostly ensconced — up the slight-but-treacherous-upgrade mile into the downtown area, where all the celebs, parties and nightlife take place. A couple of times I made this very trek while trying to talk on the phone and found myself unable to speak coherently for all the huffing and puffing I was doing. an apt metaphor for the distance between the Talent and the (digitally) ink-stained hoard that appraise them. Let’s not dwell on it. For this reason among a host of others, I pretty much kept it to the movies on this, my first visit to this annual American Indie showcase, and on that score, I wasn’t disappointed. Sundance 2015 may have been the usual mountainous smorgasbord of indie films, celebs, parties, very long lines, …

Why Do We Love The Things We Love?

As a boy, my son Peter collected seashells — most were found during morning walks along a variety of shorelines from Maine to Florida to Kauai; a few were purchased in souvenir shops; a very special few were ordered from seashell suppliers. Peter spent hours arranging his shells, sorting and displaying them with intense concentration and pride. These days (Peter is now a college senior), the bulk of his collection sits in a dusty box on the top shelf of his closet. But even though this hobby may have lost its appeal, I suspect Peter might always name his seashell collection among his prized possessions. Why do we love the things we love? For most people, the appeal of an object has little to do with its monetary value. Typically, we prize certain possessions because of some intangible quality that’s supremely personal. When a team of researchers from Arizona State University examined the motivation behind human attachment to possessions, they found that people form attachments when objects help narrate their life story. These lifeless “things” …

5 #Winning Reads

When people hear the words “prize” and “books” together, they usually think of “Pulitzer,” which makes sense given that literary awards are prestigious — not to mention a great way to winnow your reading lists. But there’s another side to the words “prize” and “books,” and that’s books about prizes. Many a plot revolves around winning something: A suitor’s eye, a coveted job, even a lawsuit. The following list involves books in which winning actually involves a prize of some kind. What a fitting reward one of these titles would be to read after a long day.   The Submission by Amy Waldman Imagine what might have happened if they held a juried contest for a New York City 9/11 memorial — and the winner was a Muslim. That’s what Waldman (a former reporter for The New York Times and correspondent for The Atlantic) attempts in her 2011 debut novel about how one woman, widowed by the tragedy, stands up for an artist whose vision she believes to be the most truthful. A powerful and thought-provoking choice for …

We Asked Our Readers About TueNight. Here’s What You Said

After a year and a half of publishing TueNight (from our offices, from home in pajamas, from far-flung spots as varied as Virginia and Ireland), we were curious to hear from you, our readers. We wanted to get in your heads a bit and hear what you’re thinking: What do you dig? What are you bored of? And how can you tell us this really great theme you’ve been waiting for us to pick? So we set up a very short questionnaire online and asked. (Only five questions? That’s like a speed date!) Nothing majorly soul-searching, just a gut check to make sure we’re having the right conversations. And we loved your responses — which we will now share. We can’t thank you enough for your time and your thoughts. Here are our questions and your answers. 1. What themes should TueNight.com do next? It was very interesting to see that lots of you want to talk about relationships: specifically, reconnecting with spouses, dating after divorce, dealing with kids in college, being the non-mom around …

Margit’s Note: And You Get a Car! And You Get a Car!

In this day and age when everyone gets a trophy (except the Seahawks…. but maybe the dancing shark actually won), we remember a time when there were true winners and losers. You won the yellow ribbon in ice skating; you lost the blueberry pie competition. Why do salt and sugar have to look so much alike… We clutched our shiny trophy for one smug moment, then stuck it in a cardboard box next to our yearbooks and a one-time, treasured Homies collection. This week we resurface our prizes — the ones as random as a Cracker Jack charm and the ones as well-deserved (or as DuVernay-ily disappointing) as an Oscar. Juliet Fletcher judges an exotic dance contest in Philly. Bethanne Patrick gives us five blue-ribbon reads. Amy Barr asks why we cherish certain collections. Our man in Utah, Piers Marchant, doles out his own Sundance trophies. And Diane Otter revels in a kickball glory. We also share the results of our very first (very casual) survey. And we’re pleased to report, you like us, you really, really like …